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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Amit Shah in Kerala and revival of BJP in Kerala



BJP president Amit Shah is expected to arrive in Kerala tomorrow (August 31). Kerala media have published many speculative reports on his mission. All reports agree at one point; Shah seems to be on a mission to give a boost to the the prospects of BJP in Kerala ahead of local body election. But how? Only Amit Shah knows. Borrowing a cliche from Mainstream Media informed sources in RSS say RSS had already begun (even before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections) work to ensure victory of BJP candidates in their strongholds.

BJP sympathisers across the state expect that Amit Shah who worked wonders for the party in Uttar Pradesh will have a panacea for all the ills faced by party Kerala unit. But it is not known whether Kerala BJP leaders share the same enthusiasm. Kerala BJP is sore over the lack of consideration shown by BJP central leadership towards their senior leaders. But it is also doubtful if BJP has many leaders in the state who merit such consideration.

Perhaps Shah who is a calm, wise, astute and a ruthless taskmaster has already made his assessment on the state as to why BJP has failed to make any inroads in Kerala. Let us have a look at the scenario in Kerala.

The usual argument for the failure of BJP to make inroads in Kerala is its huge minority population which accounts to 45 plus per cent of total population. However this is a lame excuse as NDA candidate PC Thomas had won from the Christian dominated Moovattupuzha Lok Sabha constituency earlier defeating LDF and UDF.

Lesson 1. Right BJP candidates with right strategy and right alliances can be victorious even in Kerala’s minority dominated constituencies.
The second argument of BJP is that LDF and UDF gang up when there is a strong chance of BJP victory and in the last minute BJP victory is subverted.
They corroborate arguments pointing out that BJP leader O Rajagopal was defeated in 2014 from Thiruvananthapuram constituency by just around 14,000 votes. BJP candidates who contested Kerala assembly elections from Kasaragod and Manjeswaram constituencies ended up second. They were expected to win but were defeated as LDF and UDF entered into a tacit understanding in the final moments to defeat BJP.

Lesson 2. There is some merit in this argument. But if one finishes second repeatedly to different opponents, it is not merely the opponents’ strength, it is also the runner-up’s weakness. Simple fact is an influential, shrewd election manager who can snatch the wind out of the sails of the opponent was never appointed by BJP to ensure victory in its candidates in important constituencies. Such a manager would study nuances of local politics in advance and identify chinks the opponents’ armour and will strike there. Majority of BJP candidates who came second did not have the killer instinct to secure victory by all means. Remember those who are desperate to win eventually wins. Tharoor has showed it at Thiruvananthapuram. So a good election campaign manager is as important as a good candidate.

BJP has the great idea of uniting all Hindus. But remember it will take much time to achieve this. Caste is one of the key factors that influence voters even now in Kerala.

Lesson 3. BJP needs to get the strong support of either Nairs or Ezhavas and support it with more votes from other Hindu castes and Christians to win election in Kerala. According to the last socio-political census of Kerala Nairs constitute more than 16% of Kerala population while Ezhavas constitute just over 22 per cent. Of these two, Nairs are traditionally pro Congress while Ezhavas are pro-CPM, according to political pundits. At present, different estimates say around 20 per cent of Nairs vote for BJP. The influence of BJP in Nair majority Thiruvananthapuram district supports this. According to certain other estimates, only less than 10 per cent of Ezhavas vote for BJP. But it is true BJP is gaining more ground among Ezhavas. But it will take much more time and effort if BJP is to win the support of more Ezhavas. 

As a strategy, Weaning away Ezhava/Thiyya cadres of CPM to BJP is not so easy. The secular teachings of Sree Narayana Guru (spiritual leader from ezhava community), Sahodaran Ayyappan and others and communist ideology have many agreements. This has been interpreted by CPM to their advantage and the party has strong support from community members. Eventhough the current leader of Ezhavas, Vellappally Natesan has a soft corner for BJP, he never goes public about it. Moreover organisationally CPM kerala unit is stronger than Bengal unit and weaning away its cadres is more difficult than in Bengal. So it is clear. It needs and intelligent strategy and herculean (Or Bhageerathan) hard work for BJP to win influence among Ezhavas. If BJP needs to gain influence quickly, then win the support of majority of Nair voters and take them away from the Congress. They will win a few seats in Kerala. Remember also that upper section of Christians and Nairs vote similarly. Though NSS has never publicly supported BJP, interests of Nairs and ideology of BJP have several meeting points.

At present Congress has strong influence among Nairs in Kerala because of the presence of a large number of tall leaders from the community including Ramesh Chennithala, K Muraleedharan, KC Venugopal, V D Satheesan, Shashi Tharoor, PC Vishnunath and many more. These leaders individually manage to win votes of even BJP sympathisers when they contest which eventually costs BJP dear.
BJP does not have such a leadership line from Nair community who can attract voters.

Some say other parties in Kerala consider BJP as an untouchable  and hostile conditions make it difficult for them to work.
  
Lesson 4. Yes there is some logic in the argument. But it is also true that BJP doesn’t have many credible leaders even in state level; not to speak of district and local level leaders. Though BJP has support of the middle class, one may not find many leaders in BJP who have risen from the Middle class. More people from respectable background, like teachers, senior advocates, professionals and intelligentia need to be incorporated in the leadership to win the confidence of middle class. To sum up BJP leadership needs to induct some new faces at different levels.

Many district and local level leaders of BJP don’t have much experience and one cannot find many BJP leaders who have worked in student and youth wings. Coopt into BJP leaders from different sections who have a sizeable support of their own.

Lesson 5. Many BJP candidates in elections get votes of party workers and sympathisers but they themselves cannot bring many outside votes to BJP. BJP needs to have influential people as their candidates in election who can bring votes to the party. But LDF and UDF candidates in elections are influential people who attract votes on their own apart from party votes. Eg. Film actor Innocent won from Chalakkudy to Lok Sabha this time.

The final and most important reason for BJP’s failure to win in Kerala is their inability to garner votes of all groups of sympathisers. Sangh Parivar in total is more powerful than Congress in many parts of Kerala. Perhaps only CPM can match the strength of Sangh Parivar if all parties contest individually in Kerala. But it seems different sangh organisations often have ego clashes and they never coordinate during elections.
These are views of a layman. It is sure that Shah knows more about BJP and he has already started administering panancea.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

One Hundred Days of Modi Government; India Modyfied or unmodified



It is not just coincidental that leading English media in India have published reviews on the performance of BJP lead NDA government titled as 100 days of Modi government rather than 100 days of NDA govt or 100 days of BJP government. Such is the influence of Narendra Damodardas Modi Prime Minister of the largest democracy in the world at present, who is believed to have brought BJP into power almost single handedly. He wields enormous powers now and it is right to term NDA govt as Modi government. But along with power comes responsibility too. The expectations of the public who decisively voted him to power are also very high.
                                                                                                               
As a general Modi forced his enemies flee from the battlefield and captured the post of Prime Minister of India emerging as the most powerful leader India has seen in the recent times after Indira Gandhi. He has a clear majority in India’s lower house which will make decision making his own prerogative. That also means he won’t be able to blame allies for his government’s failures.

Right from the beginning, after assuming power, Modi has been demanding time before assessing him. It is true that any government in India needs time to set things right, especially after the chaos which marked the rule of former UPA government. But it is unlikely that the public are such magnanimous.  They are fed up with the lame excuses of politicians and even a fair request is unlikely to be entertained.

In this situation it is clear. 100 days are enough for the preliminary review of Modi government’s performance. Let us check the government’s performance on different fronts like 1. Political Front 2.Administration 3. External Relations. It is also important to review whether parameters used by his opponents to review Modi have changed after he became PM and its impact.

 Modi’s persona now and then

Perhaps Narendra Modi, as Gujarat chief minister was a politician who was attacked the most in India ever. Modi was made a synonym of Hindutva by his opponents who relentlessly and unethically attacked him. It was this attack that made him familiar to crores of Hindus across India from Kerala to Kashmir who identified themselves with him. This won him their sympathy and perhaps they felt Modi’s opponents where in fact attacking them and their values. Opponents of Modi made him an icon of Hindu resistance unknowingly and result is Hindus rallied behind him.

Now after Modi became Prime Minister, he is no more the subject of attack of anti-Hindu groups who have now turned their focus to new groups and people. So now Modi will be judged as an administrator not a leader of Hindutva groups. This means Modi will have to perform to win admiration.

Political Front

The by-elections to assembly seats in different states across the country was the first political test faced by BJP after it came to power. Unfortunately Narendra Modi has failed to deliver BJP any success this time. From Uttarkhand, Bihar and Punjab in the north to Karnataka in the south, BJP’s performance is at the best average which means it has not been able to sustain the advantage it gained during Lok Sabha elections held only a few months ago.

Even after its worst ever defeat the Congress party seems to be confident and Congress which is known for its inner party fights is relatively united now. The party leadership communicates well, still hit media headlines and has influence in the top bureaucracy at the centre. This is really amazing. This means BJP has failed to attack Congress politically after election and disperse its cadres away from Sonia-Rahul leadership. Coordination of state units of BJP with the union government is poor and there is not strategy to provide advantage to state units using the influence and decisions of union government.

The political, religious, media, business, social and bureaucratic coteries which support Congress are still adamantly and successfully opposing BJP and Hindu groups which means Modi has been unable to take meaningful steps to tame them.


Administration

Going by media reports it seems Narendra Modi has succeeded in disciplining government offices and lower bureaucracy to a great extent. They arrive at office on time and take decisions quickly. Offices and premises are now cleaner. It also seems bribery has not increased. These are good steps and evoke an image of Corporate Culture.

But the real question is have the people begun to feel the change? Are the prices falling or at least stable. Are the charges for government services stable. Or will an improvement in quality of service is felt when charges are hiked.? For eg hike in price of petroleum products or railway fares or hike in toll by National Highway authority. 

People don’t bother about nuances in policy changes, they judge by its impact on their lives. Sadly BJP government has not been able to do much on this.
It seems the influence of Congress on top bureaucracy and some business and media houses still continue and they will upset BJP’s applecart.


Communication or information dissemination

The success of a government or political party depends not only on the sincerity of their acts but also on their ability to convince the public. Whatever social media enthusiasts say, Mainsteam Media continues to play a key role in building public opinion in India. Of course the new media including social media platforms are now a significant force.

BJP’s use of mainstream media continues to be weak and good acts of the government are often unreported or under reported. It seems government does not have a strategy to influence media positively. Overcautious ministers distance themselves from media and the result is disastrous.

For example India’s bold stand for the poor and destitute at WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement has not been communicated to the public. The bold stand of government should have won the admiration of even opponents. Why the govt failed to communicate? Perhaps Modi knows.....or his media adviser (Sorry forgot the fact that he doesn’t have one yet). Apart from some over enthusiastic followers on twitter, Modi needs to have real time journalists and communication experts who can help him communicate better. The government has been unable to get full mileage of its rescue of Keralite nurses from the war torn Iraq. This should not happen again.

Foreign front

Perhaps the only area where government rose to expectations is here. Modi’s initiatives at building better relations with SAARC countries and other Asian countries including China mark a remarkable shift from the attitude of lethargic UPA government. Hope Modi would maintain the tempo and help India emerge as a world leader.

Conclusion

BJP should not take by-poll results likely. Strategies that once helped to win may not be just enough to sustain the momentum. Keep reinventing. Communicate effectively. Make people feel the change. This is a great chance for Hindutva groups. Please don’t squander it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Prohibition in Kerala and its impact on Nairs



Kerala government has recently taken an unprecedented decision to wind up nearly 420 bars in hotels across the state which are of different classifications.  The government has also announced a bold decision to phase out the sale of liquor in the state within a time frame. Almost all caste  and religious groups in the state have welcomed the decision except SNDP Yogam leader Vellappally Natesan. While NSS (Nair Service Society) used to side with prohibitionists earlier, this time NSS general secretary Sukumaran Nair seemed to be not much enthused by the government decision.

In fact media reports say Sukumaran Nair opined that the decision to shut down bar hotels was impractical. He further noted that the decision of govt was a result of ego clash among Congress leaders who wanted to enhance their image by closing down bar hotels. According to newspaper reports, Nair wanted a practical approach to enlighten people to abstain liquor instead of banning its sale suddenly.  Nair’s opinion on prohibition seems to support Vellappally’s stand. It seems NSS and SNDP who in the recent past called off their unity moves have joined together again in the liquor issue.

The current stand of NSS on prohibition is actually against the age old stand of NSS. M.P Manmadhan who was once registrar and general secretary of NSS was the leader of anti-liquor movement in Kerala. K Kelappan, noted freedom fighter and prohibition activist was the founder president of NSS. If one checked leaders of Kerala Madya Nirodhana Samithi (roughly translated as Kerala Probhibition Council) one would find a large number of eminent Nairs, many of whom were also associated with NSS. They included Lakshmi N Menon, Prof. G Kumara Pillai and Sugatha Kumari. Till the end of 1980’s anti-liquor movements  were strong in Kerala though no government took a concrete step to ban all types of liquor in the state.

The leading light of NSS Mannath Padmanabhan had always stood to save Nair community from the menace of liquor. It is a fact that several thousands of Nair families in the state have lost their wealth and health because of liquor. From 1950s to 1980s a large number of Nair families in Kerala had experienced the ills of excessive drinking. One could find many reputed Nair families losing all wealth because of the excessive drinking habits of men. Fortunately Nair youth of present have moved away from the habit and the

While there were a large number of Nairs in Kerala who were addicted to liquor earlier few of them were in the liquor business. During that period the liquor trade of Kerala was almost entirely controlled by a backward community. Ban on brewing and selling cheap country liquor made locally implemented by former Kerala CM A K Antony in 1996 might have affected the prosperity of some communities in Kerala but NSS need not worry about that. Moreover they could have diversified into other businesses.
Though at present Nairs and Christians own a significant number of bar attached hotels in Kerala NSS need not support liquor trade. Liquor has cost our community wealth and health. Nairs who were traditionally warriors and farmers need not worry much about prohibition. Instead we should use the ban to save our youth.

Apprehensions on the practicality of prohibition are irrelevant in the present situation in Kerala where liquor flows like water. Lack of easy access may prevent many from drinking. Only addicts will go all out to get a drink. Moreover because of fear of law not many will come out in the public after drinking. Kerala consumes the highest quantity of liquor in India. This is the cause of violence and road accidents. Many families break up because of liquor menace. Nair community will benefit eventually from the ban. So NSS needs to welcome prohibition.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Meeting of Nairs of North America

A meeting of Nairs living in North America is being organised by Nair Service Society of North America from August 8 to 10 at Hilton Hotel, 5000 Seminary Road, Alexandria VA 22311. Several distinguished leaders of Nair Community from all walks of life will be participating in the meeting, said organisers.

It is extremely pleasing to know that at the meeting NSS of North America is giving equal importance to programs based on cultural and spiritual heritage of Nair community as well as those aimed at the temporal development of community members.

Nairs have a great cultural and spiritual tradition and have contributed immensely to India, Hinduism and the world. However by 1970s the prosperity of community members started fading in Kerala which is their homeland because of the social and political changes in India and the failure of Nairs to realize and assess it and adapt to it.

However of late, young Nairs everywhere seem to be scripting new success stories by their hard work and entrepreneurship. We are back as leaders everywhere. Nair bureaucrats, politicians, businessmen and social workers are setting new examples. North America, especially the United States is undoubtedly the most developed part of the world in many senses. Nairs working and living there will have a lot to give to their brethren in the rest of the world. Hope this meet will be able to inspire Nair youth and push them to action. travancorenairs.blogspot.in wishes  the meeting an unparalleled success.